This week, a Christian advocacy group submitted a letter to the US Congress urging action to help Armenians still isolated in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
“Washington’s lax approach has only emboldened Azerbaijan, which has held 120,000 Armenian Christians hostage since December in an attempt to win concessions from Armenia in long-delayed and oft-promised talks to normalize relations,” said Robert Nicholson, president and CEO of Philos. Project, he wrote in the letter.
“He has done nothing to relieve the pressure on the beleaguered population of Artsakh.”
Project Philos submitted the letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) on Friday, addressing Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Gregory Meeks, DN.Y.
US RETURNS TO DEMAND KILLING TOP AL QAEDA LEADER IN DRONE
Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars in the past 30 years over Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but home to a large Armenian population in the Caucasus Mountains. Tensions have risen between the two ex-Soviet neighbors over the blockade of the only road giving direct access to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia.
Project Philos has appealed, along with Armenian-Americans and other advocacy groups, directly to Biden to step in to help stranded Armenians, but the administration has provided only a “silent response,” the group said.
“Instead of acting decisively in response to a clear crisis, which many see as the unfolding of a second Armenian genocide, the US government, it seems, has been treating the situation as if it were normal,” Nicholson wrote. “The president has been remarkably silent, failing to acknowledge the current crisis even as he issued an anniversary message on the 1915 Armenian Genocide.”
Nicholson noted that following his earlier letter to President Biden, the State Department replaced the senior adviser for the Caucasus negotiations, which created “an unfortunate setback.”
One long-standing concern surrounding the conflict is the involvement of Turkey, seen as supporting the Azerbaijani position. The day before the talks with Blinken, Turkey closed its airspace to Armenian aircraft in an alleged response to a monument, a move which according to the Philos project “could easily be seen as an attempt to put further pressure on the Armenian side and maximize Azerbaijani leverage”.
GAZA MILITIANTS FIRE ROCKETS ON ISRAEL, CEASEFIRE TALKS COLLAPSE
A Russian-brokered 2020 ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan following a particularly violent confrontation has left Armenia vulnerable to the political ambitions of longtime adversary (and US ally) Turkey, which it now seeks to use Armenia as a gateway to trade with Azerbaijan. Such access also gives Turkey a stronger foothold in the Caucasus, bordering Iran and just south of Russia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month hosted the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan for face-to-face talks, and Blinken said the ministers had made “tangible progress”. The secretary said an agreement between the two nations to end the blockade was “in sight, within reach,” but Nicholson said no announcements had materialized.
“The Nagorno-Karabakh dispute has defied administrations on both sides, but Biden’s team is handling it with the unique indifference and slowness with which they have faced other foreign policy disasters,” Morgan Ortagus, founder of Polaris National Security and former State Department Spokesperson.
“Their actions over the past five months show their apathy towards religious freedom and their fundamental misunderstanding of leverage.”
Nicholson urged the HFAC to help “reassert” American leadership by bringing immediate relief to the residents of Artsakh and not by “no longer turning a blind eye as putative partners and allies attempt to negotiate with another partner through violent or coercive means.”
ELECTIONS IN TURKEY: PRESIDENT ERDOGAN, CHALLENGER TOWARDS THE DANDAGE OF MAY 28
“Peace negotiations done under these conditions are bound to stir up resentments that will in the long run be their undoing,” Nicholson said. “America can do better.”
In response to a request by Fox News Digital for comment on the lockdown earlier this year, Azerbaijan’s embassy in the United States sent a “fact sheet” addressing “unsubstantiated claims about the ‘closure’ of the Lachin road and the ‘humanitarian crisis’ faced by ethnic Armenians” in the region.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“As Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated, no restrictions have been applied to movement on the Lachin road for humanitarian purposes,” an embassy statement said. “However, the Armenian side and the illegal regime it created in the territories of Azerbaijan prevent the movement of local residents to abuse the situation.”
In response to a request for comment from Fox News Digital, the State Department pointed to Blinken’s comments made after the May 4 negotiations. McCaul did not respond at the time of publication.